Northside shines even with Sunday Streets rains
The puddles left behind by two rapid Sunday showers that streaked across Houston’s Northside just gave Taylor Rogers something else to play in.
As people eased out from under awnings and umbrellas to participate in another Cigna Sunday Streets, this time a community gathering along Irvington, Rogers, 5, blazed his way through the shallow waters on his bicycle. His mother Cindy urging him to take it slow, lest he splash someone with his wake.
Sunday Streets is an extension of efforts by city officials and local groups to encourage healthier lifestyles, lure people out to support local businesses and promote alternatives to driving. For the Northside, all of the options interact in neighborhoods with deep heritage, but also changing conditions. Reinvestment has brought many new neighbors, and once-vacant storefronts are returning to activity along with institutions that have lasted generations.
“Today is giving the new people and the long-time residents a chance to meet,” said JC Cortez, a native of the neighborhood and director of the local YMCA.
The event also offered a showcase of the Northside to others. Playing a bean bag toss game along the street, Tom Rudd said he was lured from his apartment in the central business district simply because he wanted to know about the area.
“There are so many places in Houston, it’s kind of daunting actually, to think of all the interesting places,” Rudd said. “It was so close to me, I figure ‘why not go check it out.’”
Getting crowds out on Irvington provides a chance to show interest in walking in the neighborhood, local officials said. Long-neglected sidewalks and bike lanes line many Northside streets, making them an obstacle to other efforts, such as connecting to the Metropolitan Transit Authority light rail line along Fulton.
Bike advocates created a temporary bike lane protected from traffic by parking spaces, showing what could be built, albeit for just a few hours.
Even Irvington, a major corridor for the neighborhood, has spots with inadequate or even missing sidewalks in front of stores and businesses.
“It is a great opportunity to show what we can do to make this a complete street,” said Rebecca Reyna, executive director of the Greater Northside Management District.
City officials identified Northside as one of its five “Complete Communities” where they are working to rethink upcoming plans to encourage economic development and improvements in areas.
The two storms stymied festivities from time to time, but also showed the resilience of the crowd to support the efforts. Though huddled under trees, the crowd remained in place awaiting the sun. When it reemerged, so did the bikes, scooters and walker.
“This is Houston, we don’t let a little water get us down,” said Paula McHam with Cigna South Texas.